With the 2015 NBA Draft nearing and early-entrant list finalized, it’s time to group the top prospects into positions they’ll play at the next level. Last week, I looked at the top point guards. This week, we’ll look at the top shooting guards, which has a lot of depth.
Honorable Mention: Norman Powell (SG, UCLA), Rashad Vaughn (SG, UNLV), Tyler Harvey (SG, Eastern Washington), Timothe Luwawu (SG/SF, France)
5. R.J. Hunter – 6-5, 190, Georgia St. Junior
The early story of March Madness was Georgia State pulling off a shocking upset against Baylor, behind a 30-footer from Hunter and his father, Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, falling off his stool in excitement. Not only was this a moment to remember for a lifetime, but it was a signature moment of an excellent career for Hunter at Georgia State. The junior went on to declare for the NBA Draft after leading Georgia State to their first NCAA tournament since 2001.
Hunter had a productive three-year career under his head coach and father. His first two years were very efficient before expanding his game off the dribble as a junior where he started to struggle. Hunter shot 36.5 percent from three as a freshman, and 39.5 percent as a sophomore before bottoming out to 30.5 percent as a junior. His overall field goal percentage dipped, too. As a sophomore he shot 44.4 percent, down to 39.5 percent as a junior.
Due to more responsibility as a creator, Hunter’s assists doubled as a junior, from 1.7 assists per game to 3.6. This is promising for his NBA potential to become more versatile than just a three-point shooter. Hunter has NBA length (6-9.5-inch wingspan) to help on defense, where he’s still a work in progress. But after a successful last summer in front of scouts at the 2014 Kevin Durant Skills Academy, Hunter’s name has been on the map for some time. Hunter should be picked between 20-30 in the draft.
4. Devin Booker – 6-6, 205, Kentucky, Freshman
I wrote about Booker while dissecting each Kentucky player’s decision to enter the NBA Draft. Booker is an intriguing talent at shooting guard with excellent size, a pure stroke and he’s finisher at the rim. The key for Booker is becoming enough of an off-the-dribble threat to make his game more versatile as he heads to the NBA. Booker shot 41.1 percent from three last season and 98.3 percent(!) of those were assisted.
He was a crucial piece to that Kentucky team with his ability to space the floor. Booker also Kentucky’s best guard at finishing at the rim, shooting 72.9 percent shooting at the rim during the season. Booker needs to improve his defense, as he will lack length (6-7 wingspan) to handle bigger wings in the NBA. In the end, Booker will need to prove to scouts he can become more than a spot-up shooting threat to reach his potential. Booker looks like another J.J. Redick-type, who will be picked sometime between 15-25 in the draft.
3. Justin Anderson – 6-6, 225, Virginia, Junior
Anderson was a highly-coveted recruit coming out of Montrose Christian and left Virginia a leader of one of the best teams in the nation last year. Anderson’s growth has been impressive over the past year, after shooting around 30 percent from three his first two seasons, as a junior he improved to 45.2 percent on four attempts per game. Anderson also improved his field goal percentage, shooting a solid 46.6 percent this past season after shooting 40.7 percent as a sophomore.
Anderson is a high-flying defender with an improving offensive game. At the very least, he should develop into a 3-and-D type in the NBA. In order for him to turn into something more, his ball skills need to tighten up as he struggles to create offense for himself. He is a good defensive player already who can guard multiple positions, but he can sometimes fall asleep on defense off the ball.
I have Anderson above Booker as I think Anderson is more of a sure-thing, 3-and-D type almost immediately. Anderson has the length (6-11 wingspan), strength and defensive ability to be valuable as a sub off the bench right away. Expect Anderson to be picked between 18-30 in the draft.
2. Mario Hezonja, 6-8, 215, Croatia
Hezonja has all the physical tools needed to succeed in the NBA. He has a great jump shot out to NBA range, is physical enough to take it to the rim and is a menace in the fastbreak with great athletic ability. He has a quick, compact release on his jump shot and his length makes it hard to block. Hezonja has enough of a handle to create enough space to get his shot off, but he won’t be blowing by many defenders off-the-dribble in the NBA. In the halfcourt, he uses a lot of pick-and-rolls to help him get an advantage going to the rim.
However, there is a lot of unknown about Hezonja and how he’ll translate to the NBA. He only played 16 minutes per game on FC Barcelona where he averaged 7.7 points per game on 38.2 percent from three-point range. His off-the-ball defense needs improvement, and he still needs to add weight to handle the rigors of NBA defense. Overall, Hezonja is a very promising and well-rounded international prospect–possibly the best in the draft. It should lead to Hezonja should be picked between 5-10 in the draft.
1. Justise Winslow, 6-6, 230, Duke, Freshman
Winslow was rated as my number three prospect in the Final Four this past April, and nothing has changed since then. He might be the best swingman in this draft. The ultra-aggressive lefty swingman is a do-it-all type, and keyed Duke’s run to a National Championship this past season.
I’m projecting Winslow to be a Jimmy Butler-esque shooting guard in the NBA. Winslow is a physically strong swingman with length at 6-6 with a 6-10 wingspan and 230 pounds. He successfully defended positions 1-through-4 at the college level and could possibly defend 1-through-3 in the NBA. Winslow slashes to the rim, shot the ball surprisingly well (41.8 percent from three) and is always attacking the basket for rebounds.
Winslow must continue working on his shooting range to reach the NBA line to play the wing in the NBA. A slight concern with his performance at Duke might be how Coach K moved him to power forward, allowing him to have a mismatch every time down the court. How good will his ball skills be while pressured by the best defenders in the NBA? Winslow will need to continue to develop them while preparing to play on the perimeter full-time. Look for Winslow to be picked between 4-7 in the draft.